Before I started following the manosphere, I pretty much believed the main stream media’s portrayal of male emotions — meaning namely that men have fewer emotions than women.
Turns out, it’s not true. Men actually feel emotions very deeply, perhaps even more deeply than women. But how those emotions are processed and expressed is different, so on the surface this can give the appearance that men do not have the emotional depth or breath that women do. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Women tend to express emotions outwardly, talking freely to friends, family, and others about their emotions. Men tend to express their emotions inwardly, presenting a stoic face to the world even when inside they may be feeling anything but.
According to the “Mental Health” chapter of a book I have been reading, “Is He Worth It: How to Spot the Hidden Traits of a Good Man” by Shawn T. Smith, PhD, statistics show that more women than men are diagnosed with and on treatments for mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. This on the surface seems to suggest that women have more mental health issues than men.
But the author goes on to explain when one looks at the bigger picture, men are more likely to engage in substance abuse (alcohol, food, gambling, drugs, etc.) and are a full four times more likely than women to commit suicide. When these factors are taken into account, women and men struggle with these issues at about the same overall percentages, he says.
The difference? Women are more likely to reach out to their doctor or to a mental health specialist for medication and/or therapy when they are feeling anxiety or depression than a man, while men are more likely to self medicate and/or (tragically) commit suicide as a way to cope with their depression or anxiety.
It’s unclear if this is due to a gender difference, a social acceptance difference, or a combination of factors. In general women reach out to others for support, mainly other women. Men often only reach out to their own partner for emotional support, and less frequently to other men or family members.
It’s important for women to understand these differences because many times what seems like relationship problems, a man who is grouchy, sullen, and non-responsive, and/or engaging in substance abuse despite thing seemingly going relatively OK, can often be the result of his feeling anxiety, depression, hurt, or fear in other areas in his life, such as at work, and those emotions are then translated into emotions such as anger or moodiness.
Too often women respond to the expressions of anger and moodiness by internalizing them, thinking it is about the relationship, when in fact it may be completely unrelated. I have personally experienced this, and have seen it in other couples. I have even seen this misunderstanding between male and female emotions lead to unnecessary divorce.
Instead, a woman can and should step back, not take such expressions personally, but consider if in fact they may be signs her man is struggling with anxiety, depression, fear, or hurt in some area of his life. In this case, instead of engaging in conflict with him, taking a patient and empathetic approach combined with and some probing and problem solving may be a far more productive/constructive.
In other words, be a helpmate. Be on his team, rather than adding to his stress. You may be able to help. Or what may be needed is time for him to work it out with your support.
Maybe he needs to consider changing jobs? Maybe he is under too much financial pressure? Maybe he is under too much physical or psychological pressure? Maybe he needs to identify the cause and make some positive life changes that will lead to a resolution of the cause of his struggles?
I hate to admit this but it is true, when I was young and newly married, I almost entirely only considered my own experience, as many women do. What a mistake. I wish I had known this information earlier in life, so I could have been a help to my then husband in his struggle with his feelings about being in a dead-end, no-win, taken for granted job despite his being an excellent worker as well as understood better how his ex girlfriend cutting off contact between him and the child they had as teens were the cause of his drinking and detachment. Instead, like many women do, I was clueless he was even feeling those emotions and just assumed his moody, grumpy, sullen attitude was because he was unhappy with me.
Unfortunately this profound misunderstanding was a big cause of our marriage falling apart, because rather than realize he had for over 10 years been struggling internally with some very powerful emotions, I just assumed when no matter what I did things did not improve, that he just didn’t care to work on “our” problems.
Shortly after our divorce the company he worked for sold to another and he is now one of the most valuable members on their team. So much so the owner has taken him under his wing and is grooming him to be his successor. He’s finally being recognized as the true, loyal, hardworking employee he has always been. He’s also quit drinking, and has been clean and sober for many years. He reunited with his now grown son, and they have a relationship that brings them both great joy. He’s also remarried now, and he seems to be happily so.
I often ask myself “what if?” What if I had understood? What if I had reacted differently? What if I had waited just a little bit longer? But the truth is, I will never know. I can’t go back in time and undo what has been done. All I can do is acknowledge it, learn from it, and do different going forward. And I also hope my sharing this can perhaps help other women (and men) avoid the same outcome.
In short, men do have very deep emotions. When they are grouchy, sullen, angry, or withdrawn it’s often because he’s struggling with those emotions internally. Rather than add to his struggle, do your best to lighten it and to be a point of joy and refuge in his life. Men need their woman to be that.
Perhaps the men here would like to share… is this so, or if not, please share how so in the comments.
The more I learn, the more I see that men and women do not have to be enemies. In fact, I believe that together, as true partners, life is easier for both. It’s too bad society promotes a battle-of-the-sexes approach to remlationships, rather than a collaborative one. Luckily couples in the know can choose to be a team, rather than to be on opposite teams.
(Please note: I am NOT recommending women silently endure abusive behavior from her man in hopes that things will improve. The above is referring to normal levels of anger, sullen, grouchy male behavior, not ongoing physical, emotional, or verbal abuse. Likewise, men should not endure abusive behavior from women “because of emotions” either.)